People can form such personal relationships with animals. A pet can become your best friend or like a sibling. I know my cats became extremely important members of my family every since I could remember. They surprise you in the ways they seem to understand you, cheer you up or just put you at ease. I remember always feeling my cat’s presence while at home alone, especially while in the basement watching a scary movie. All of my cats have had a way about them that forced their way into my heart, truly leaving an impact on me.
Because of my relationship with my kittens, I knew going to college and leaving them would become a hard transition for me.
Before college, I had two cats. They basically took the place of my siblings, because my family got them during my early childhood. I talked to them like people, messed around with them like brothers and used them for support when I feeling down. A real relationship formed with them over the 18 years I coexisted with them. My family absolutely loved them, always buying them new toys only to have the cats push them to the side. On occasion, I would even catch my cats watching the TV with us. They had extremely developed personalities.
When I left for college, I didn’t know how much I’d miss my pets. Of course I knew I would miss them, but I didn’t know how being away from them for so long would actually make me feel. In a way, it contributes to homesickness, a phenomenon widely experienced by most college students at one time or another. When I feel homesick, I miss watching movies with my family on weekends, cuddling in with some sort of snack from the local Wawa. Or, I’d ache for a car ride where I could sing with my friends and go wherever I wanted to. A lot of the times, I’d find myself wanting to just touch my cat. . I’d have this craving to just pick up something cute and hold it close.
Nothing compared to when I would go home for breaks and have the ability to pet my cat. Just their presence on the end of my bed or sitting on the living room windowsill comforted me. I became extremely aware of how animals affected me while away from them for so long.
Over winter break, my cat got sick. That February, my family had to put him down without me there, which became very hard for me. Losing him felt weirdly intense. Being physically separated from the difficult truth of the matter, I didn’t fully feel the loss of his presence until I arrived home for the summer.
My family lived in a cat-less house for the first time that I could remember. It didn’t feel empty, but I definitely felt something missing. Sometimes I’d still find myself forgetting that we didn’t have cats anymore, thinking they’d just walk right up to me and rub against my leg. At dinner, I’d miss them sitting and occasionally eating scraps. After a few months, we decided that we had enough. We identified as a cat family, and a life with no cat did not work for us.
We looked at shelters almost every weekend. Packed into our car, my family drove all around New Jersey, even venturing into Pennsylvania a few times, searching for a new cat or kitten. The shelters often brought us to tears, reminding us of our old cats and making us sad for the cats in the cages.
One day, we arrived at an adoption center we’d visited before. Many people packed the shelter. People swarmed the cages, looking at the cats and asking to play with them. We went from cage to cage, occasionally pausing to take a cat out and see if they fit with our family. Every cat seemed like the one. Each tiny paw made me fall in love. Finally, we stumbled upon a cage where all the cats gathered to the back corner of their pen. Huddled together, they played and slept in a pile. The workers warned us that this litter acted especially timid. We asked to see one anyway. He acted skittish. As my sister held him, his eyes widened with fear. Slowly, he loosened up. Not much, but just enough to make us fall for him.
He has gray, soft fur with large yellow eyes. He seemed much different from our other cats, but we wanted that. We didn’t want it to feel as if we replaced our old cats, so we went for a kitten who looked and acted completely different.
Now, going back to school proved difficult. Kittens grow up so quickly. I felt sad to leave him, knowing I have with that feeling I had with my other cats.
My solution to this problem became to have plenty of FaceTime action. I can spend an hour talking to my mom and watching my cat play around. Just knowing that the next time I go home I’ll see them makes me so excited. It feels absurd, but people with pets can probably identify with these emotions.
It doesn’t get easier, but the hustle and bustle of college usually distracts from missing them. If you really find yourself missing your pet, try dog sitting. A few of my friends have tried it through apps such as Wag! or Rover that match you with dogs that need temporary care while their owner is out of town. It not only serves as a great way to get your animal fix, but also make you a few bucks in a fun way.
While at school, I still consciously remember my cat’s routine, remembering at randomly when he takes his regular nap or has outdoor time. I can’t wait to visit home soon and reunite with my cat.